Science Needs Natural Philosophers

29 August, 2011

“Those who regard philosophy as a ‘soft’ and unscientific discipline, in contrast to the ‘hard’ and scientific fields of mathematics and physics, have accepted a Big Lie. The ideas of mathematicians and physicists can be no more objective or certain than the philosophic ideas on which they depend. Philosophy is the discipline that tells us how to be objective and how to achieve certainty. Without a theory of knowledge, how would mathematicians or physicists know the relationship of their concepts and generalizations to reality? It is the inductive science of philosophy that teaches the ‘hard’ scientist how to be scientific.”

– Leonard Peikoff in The Logical Leap by David Harriman

Death of physics

Regrettably, the inductive principle of natural philosophy has been dismissed in the ‘mob rule’ culture of science today. And modern philosophy may be the culprit. The corruption in philosophy seems to have spread from Immanuel Kant’s 18th century philosophy that led to ‘positivism,’ which limited the goal of science to merely describing regularities in the behaviour of appearances. Peikoff writes:

“When, thanks to Kant, the most advanced science departs from the proper method—for example, when physicists renounce causality in the subatomic realm and revert to the menial job of ‘saving appearances,’ or when they entirely detach theory from reality and wander around in an eleven-dimensional geometry of spacetime—the cultural consequences are devastating. People hear about such views and conclude: If this is rationality, who need it? There must be something better.”

Stephen Hawking (correctly for once) declares in his latest book, “Philosophy is dead.” But so is modern physics, and for the same reason, although the corpse refuses to lie down. Kant’s influence has morphed into the oxymoronic “thought experiment.” Science has become surreal and illogical with the sainted Einstein as its exemplar and holy relic. A return to classical natural philosophy is urgently needed to restore sanity.

NPA title slide

Photo: Michael Steinbacher

Last month I had the honour of delivering my paper, Stars in an Electric Universe, as the 2011 John Chappell Memorial lecture at the Natural Philosophy Alliance (NPA)* 18th Annual Conference at the University of Maryland. The same evening, several scientists I hold in high regard, including Dr. Halton Arp and Dr. Harold Aspden, were presented (in absentia) with the Sagnac Award** for “a lifetime commitment to excellence in scientific pursuit.” Arp has been called “a modern Galileo” for his observations that reveal the accepted ‘big bang’ cosmology to be false: “After all, to get the whole universe totally wrong in the face of clear evidence for over 75 years merits monumental embarrassment and should induce a modicum of humility.” Aspden uses simple observations to show the Sun is not powered internally: “we can be sure that energy is finding its way into heavy ions in a plasma contrary to accepted scientific principles and those in authority having concern for our energy future should heed the message.”

From the NPA website:

*”Natural Philosophy” is the name by which “physics” was known in the time of Isaac Newton, and well into the 19th century. We return to it mainly in order to emphasize that the more profound and circumspect approach to nature during those years is needed once again. We seek renewed respect for philosophy, especially for logic; and also for the everyday application of reason and of respect for evidence known as common sense — which should be considered a foundation for, rather than a contrast to, genuine science.”

** The award namesake, French physicist Georges Sagnac (1869-1926), was an associate of Nobelists Pierre and Marie Curie, Jean Perrin and Paul Langevin at the Sorbonne in Paris. Sagnac conducted experiments in 1913 demonstrating a net difference between light paths moving in opposite directions on a rotating platform. Many alternative scientists believe his ‘Sagnac Effect’ challenges the theories of Sagnac’s contemporary, Albert Einstein. Yet in spite of its challenge and repeatability, Sagnac’s experiment receives only passing mention, if any, in physics textbooks, and little is known about Sagnac himself. So just as Sagnac was not recognized for his major contributions, the Sagnac Award is intended to honor those unsung heroes making largely unrecognized, but significant contributions to science today.

The NPA has more than two thousand members and a record number of more than 200 registered for the 18th conference. This is excellent for a self-funded organization. Many papers were submitted in absentia with the result that this year’s Proceedings has 123 authors, runs to 731 pages, and weighs 1.7 kg (3.75 lb)! Amazingly, the massive volume was available at the conference as a valuable reference.

Discussion at NPA18

Time for relaxed discussion with Thunderbolts team members Jim Johnson and Michael Gmirkin who both spoke at the conference. Photo: Michael Steinbacher.

The atmosphere of the three days NPA conference was invigorating because there was a general recognition that science lost its way early in the 20th century so the future is bright for iconoclasts. Not that there was consensus about the way forward, apart from the long overdue burial of relativity theory. Controversial ideas were respectfully received and discussed. It reminded me of the freewheeling dialogue to be found in science journals at the end of the 19th century. The contrast with modern mainstream conferences, where it is foolhardy to speak against the majority view, could not have been greater. And the attendances did not decline each day as they often do at conventional scientific meetings where the tacit agenda is to have a holiday on public funds at some exotic location. International conferences were a rare event in the first half of the 20th century. In the age of the Internet they have become a poorly justified junket.

The Electric Universe paradigm was well represented at the NPA conference, with eleven speakers and a special ‘Evening with the Electric Universe.’ From the EU perspective it was refreshing to find an accord with other scholars that our current beliefs in science need root and branch revision. Chief amongst the casualties is Einstein and his illusory theories of relativity. This result was clearly predicted in 1933 by the Australian, Arthur Lynch, who wrote in The Case Against Einstein:

“I have no doubt that there will arise a new generation who will look with a wonder and amazement, deeper than now accompany Einstein, at our galaxy of thinkers, men of science, popular critics, authoritative professors, and witty dramatists, who have been satisfied to waive their common sense in view of Einstein’s absurdities. Then to these will succeed another generation, whose interest will be that of a detached and half-amused contemplation; and in the limbo of forgotten philosophies they may search for the cenotaph of Relativity.”

That it has taken so long for the blinders to begin to fall away speaks volumes for how difficult it is to shake beliefs. We seem incapable of learning from history so we are repeating the Galileo story in the 21st century. This time it is the creed of scientism and the pseudo-religion of the big bang that stands in the way of progress. In truth, we have no real understanding of matter, light, magnetism, gravity, quantum behavior, subatomic particles, stars, galaxies, or… need I go on? Stories of creation and what did and did not happen in the universe over the past 13.7 billion years are crackpot schemes by celebrities of less talent than many in the NPA but greater prestige. We have too much information and too little real understanding. Many of the things we are taught “just ain’t so.” This realization frees the mind to view everything afresh. It is the spark required to rekindle enthusiasm for science and drive progress. There is so much to be discovered.

In Nature, earlier this month, is an editorial by Dr. Michael Turner titled, “The dark clouds over US astronomy.” He bemoans the cuts in funding for astronomy and NASA. He writes:

“It is barely 12 months since US astronomy was shown the future, with the release of New Worlds, New Horizons in Astronomy and Astrophysics, the latest decadal survey by the National Academy of Sciences. The survey offered a strategy — based on realistic budgets and leveraged by international and private partnerships — to realize dazzling opportunities, including searching for life on other planets, identifying dark matter and understanding dark energy. It also promised to reveal the evolution of the first stars and galaxies and to probe whether supermassive black holes are accurately described by general relativity.”

These projects would merely add to the phenomenal waste of time, manpower and public funds by many top scientists today. I need only cite the Large Hadron Collider search for the mythical Higgs boson; the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) which is supposed to produce fusion power “like the Sun”; and the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory to detect something we do not understand. The ITER began in 2007 and the first plasma is not expected until 2019! Not a single one of the proposed NAS projects mentioned is based on any real physical understanding. Turner says, “NASA is going to need a steady stream of exciting science results to capture the public’s imagination.” What NASA gets is a steady stream of surprises, which proves my point. NASA has wasted countless billions in ill-advised space research. Turner exposes the importance of ‘showbiz’ to fund this misguided activity. But with no real understanding the “science results” become virtual-reality fiction in the media. If only education taught critical thinking instead of mesmerizing fiction, the meaningless language and illogicality of science programs would be obvious. For example, I endured a BBC program last evening, “Who’s Afraid of a Big Black Hole?”, where Prof. Douglas Leonard pontificates that black holes form when stars implode in less than a second “…and stars continue imploding all the way down to a point.” A “point” is a location in a coordinate system: it is not an object, much less a meaningless “black hole.” Such gobbledygook could not survive if inductive natural philosophy were reinstated to its primary position in science.

How can science be so far ‘off the rails’ when it is supposed to be self-correcting? The mistake comes from believing that science is a perfectly rational human pursuit, unlike any other. The polymath psychoanalyst Immanuel Velikovsky was perhaps uniquely qualified to declare in an interview, “Man is irrational in everything he does.” To restore rationality we must first understand ourselves. In an extraordinary multidisciplinary forensic investigation, which Velikovsky published in his 1950 best seller, Worlds in Collision, he uncovered mankind’s forgotten experience of doomsday — the end of the world — and our (understandable) irrational response to the trauma. “Man is a wounded animal. His survival is astonishing. But his inability to heal his wounds is tragic,” wrote Dr. Roger Wescott.

Velikovsky Worlds in Collision

The striking red cover of Velikovsky’s Macmillan edition of his book, which was like a red rag to a bull for astronomers. The publishers were forced to transfer the best seller to Doubleday by unprecedented threats from academics.

Since Velikovsky’s discovery was a prehistoric cosmic drama involving the Earth and other planets, some of our craziest collective behavior surrounds astronomy and its antecedent astral religions. He wrote, “I was greatly surprised to find that astronomy, the queen of sciences, lives still in the pre-Faraday age, not even in the time of kerosene lamps, but of candles and oil.” This referred to Faraday’s study of electricity and the fact that the cosmic thunderbolt was memorialized in all ancient cultures as the primary ‘weapon’ during planetary encounters. Therefore electricity must play a role in the cosmos, particularly at times of orbital chaos. But our high-priests of astronomy deny it. Meanwhile, spacecraft and radio telescopes routinely reveal magnetic fields in space, which are the signature of electric ‘dark currents’ flowing in the thin plasma. This was my point of departure into the Electric Universe paradigm.

The consequences of the false beliefs of the ‘blinkered’ herd are immense due to the widespread impact, not only on science, but on human culture too. There should be no need to list examples of mankind’s irrational behaviour. It is plainly evident in our wars, religions, politics, business, economics, etc. War is a surrogate for doomsday, which we have a dreadful impulse to repeat under the aegis of our various gods. When faced with cataclysm, our response can be to misinterpret or to deny it. Our religions misinterpret it by anthropomorphising the behaviour of the capricious astral gods and assuming the catastrophic references are metaphors. Our sciences deny it by clinging to a Newtonian ‘clockwork’ planetary system, undisturbed for aeons, despite the clear evidence of devastated landscapes on rocky planets and moons, the Earth included. Meanwhile, we behave like ‘Chicken Little’ at the appearance of a comet and subconsciously find fleeting catharsis in a glut of disaster, war, and mayhem on TV and in movies.

The Electric Universe paradigm is a natural philosophy based on forensic human evidence spanning millennia. Understanding our past is the way to the future. There is no future for us if we cannot learn this lesson.

Wal Thornhill



The theme of the conference will be “Electric Universe 2012 – The Human Story.”

Thunderbolts of the Gods, The Electric Sky, The Electric Universe

Thunderbolts of the Gods, by David Talbott and Wallace Thornhill, introduces the reader to an age of planetary instability and earthshaking electrical events in ancient times. If their hypothesis is correct, it could not fail to alter many paths of scientific investigation.
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The Electric Sky. Professor of electrical engineering Donald Scott systematically unravels the myths of “Big Bang” cosmology, and he does so without resorting to black holes, dark matter, dark energy, neutron stars, magnetic “reconnection,” or any other fictions needed to prop up a failed theory.
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The Electric Universe. In language designed for scientists and non-scientists alike, authors Wallace Thornhill and David Talbott show that even the greatest surprises of the space age are predictable patterns in an electric universe.
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